Guido Reni (Calvenzano di Vergato 1575 - 1642 Bologna), David with the head of Goliath. Photo Sotheby's
oil on canvas; 215.7 by 145 cm.; 84 7/8 by 57 1/8 in. Estimation 3,000,000-5,000,000 GBP. Unsold
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist in Bologna by Francesco I d'Este, Duke of Modena (1610-1658), through the agency of Cornelio Malvasia, in January 1633;
Collection of Prince Eugène, Duke of Savoy (1663-1736), first in his residence in the Upper Belvedere, Vienna, then transferred to the Palazzo Reale, Turin, listed in a 1737 catalogue and by Cochin in 1746;
According to Alessandro Baudi di Vesme, director of the Galleria Sabauda from 1888 until 1923, in an annotation to the 1737 catalogue of Prince Eugène's collection, the painting was requisitioned by General Dupont for the French nation but it is not listed among the 18 pictures by Guido Reni that were officially transferred in 1799, and was therefore almost certainly exported earlier (before the 1783 sale listed below);1
Possibly Dujarry sale, Paris, Chariot, 4 July 1783, lot 4, apparently unsold ("Guido Reni, David tenant la tête de Goliath. Il est vêtu d'une peau de tigre, & est coëffé d'un chapeau avec des plumes. Hauteur 6 pieds 9 pouces, largeur 4 pieds 8 pouces. T.");2
Probably on the London art market - first with Michael Bryan at Bryan's Gallery, then at Peter Coxe, Burrell & Foster, and subsequently with Bernard Pinney - from 1796 until 1806;3
Private collection in the north of England and then Scotland by circa 1900;
From which sold, London, Sotheby's, 3 April 1985, lot 9, where acquired by the present collector.
EXHIBITED: Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, 10 September - 10 November 1986; Washington, National Gallery of Art, 19 December 1986 - 16 February 1987; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 26 March - 24 May 1987, The Age of Correggio and the Carracci, no. 185;
On loan to the National Gallery, London, 1986-1991.
LITTERATURE: C.N. Cochin, Voyage d'Italie, ou Recueil de Notes Sur les Ouvrages de Peinture & de Sculpture, qu'on voit dans le principales villes d'Italie, Paris 1746, 1758 and 1769 eds., vol. I, p. 9: "Un David du Guide, fort beau";
J.J. De La Lande, Voyage en Italie..., Geneva 1786, vol. I, p. 81 (1790 ed., vol. I, p. 138): "Un David du Guide, semblable à celui que possède le roi de France. Il faudroit les comparer ensemble pour juger lequel est le plus beau";
A. Venturi, La R. Galleria Estense in Modena, Modena 1882, pp. 185-186;
T. von Frimmel, Geschichte der Wiener Gemäldesammlungen, Berlin & Leipzig 1899, vol. I, Part III, pp. 34 and 42, no.10, reproduced in Salamon Kleiner's engraving on p. 35, plate 3;
W. Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting with a chronological history of the Importation of Pictures by the Great Masters into England since the French Revolution, London 1824, vol. I, p. 276, no. 23: "Guido.-David with the Head of Goliah. Very fine";
J.P. Mariette, Les grands peintres. I. Écoles d'Italie, Paris 1969 ed., under 'Guide Rheni' as: "Le jeune David debout ayant le bras gauche appuyé sur un fust de Colonne et soutenant de l'autre la teste de Goliath sur un piedestral gravé au burin par J. Piccino d'après le tableau qui estoit resté à Bologne, le Guide en ayant peint deux, celui-ci est presentempt à Vienne chez le Prince Eugene de Savoye";
M.-T. Dirani, in Ricerche di Storia dell'Arte, 1952-53, p. 89, transcribing the letter from Cardinal Bernardino Spada to Queen Maria de Medici's agent in Italy, the Abate di San Luca, dated July 1631, where the picture is described as: "un David fatto nuovamente da Guido Reni, e venduto 200 ducatoni su l'andar del p.mo; ma secondo ch'ei dice, assai più bello";
D.S. Pepper, Guido Reni, A Complete Catalogue of his Works, London 1984, p. 217, no. 19B (as a lost work);
C. Spantigati ed., "Vecchie e Nuove Precisazioni sulla Quadreria del Principe Eugenio di Savoia", in Conoscere La Galleria Sabauda. Documenti sulla Storia delle Sue Collezioni, Turin 1982, p. 26, no. 10: "Davide colla testa di Golia in mano, di Guido Reni. A. 7'; L. 4'6"...";
J. Somerville, "David with the head of Goliath by Guido Reni", in Art at Auction. The year at Sotheby's 1984-85, 1985, pp. 14-17, reproduced in colour fig. 1;
M. Helston, "Some recently cleaned seicento paintings at the National Gallery", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXVIII, no. 996, March 1986, p. 210, reproduced fig. 31 and a detail fig. 32;
D.S. Pepper, in The Age of Correggio and the Carracci, exhibition catalogue, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, 10September - 10 November 1986; Washington, National Gallery of Art, 19 December 1986 - 16 February 1987; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 26 March - 24 May 1987, pp. 517-19, cat. no. 185, reproduced in colour on p.518;
E.Cropper, "Exhibition Reviews: New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Age of Correggio and the Carracci", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXIX, no. 1009, April 1987, p. 272;
D.S. Pepper, Guido Reni, L'Opera Completa, Novara 1988, pp. 336-37, cat. no. 30, reproduced in colour plate X;
F. Valli, in Guido Reni 1575-1642, exhibition catalogue, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, 5 September - 10 November 1988; Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, 11 December 1988 - 12 February 1989; and Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, 11 March - 14 May 1989, (Italian ed.), p. 44, under cat. no. 14, (English ed.), p. 184, under cat. no. 9;
D.S. Pepper, 'Regesto bio-bibliografico', in Guido Reni 1575-1642 (op. cit.), p. 205;
S. Loire, "Guido Reni, Dopo La Mostra di Bologna: Qualche Aggiunta", in Accademia Clementina. Atti e Memorie, no.25, 1990, p. 29, under no. I.30;
D.S. Pepper, "Guido Reni's Davids: The Triumph of Illumination", in Artibus et Historiae, vol. 13, no. 25, 1992, pp. 129, 134-35, 139, and 141-43, footnotes 1, 2 and 20-30, reproduced p. 130, fig. 1;
R.E. Spear, The "Divine" Guido. Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World of Guido Reni, New Haven & London 1997, pp. 239-40, and 373, footnote 66, reproduced on p. 239, plate 121 (as Studio of Guido Reni);
D.S. Pepper, "A new 'David with the head of Goliath' by Guido Reni", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLIV, no.1192, July 2002, p. 429, footnote 2, and p. 431, footnotes 20 and 21.
NOTE DE CATALOGUE: The discovery of this remarkable work by Guido Reni, showing David with the Head of Goliath, dates back to 1985 when the painting was found in a Scottish private collection. The picture was put up for sale at Sotheby's in London shortly afterwards; its first appearance on the market for almost two hundred years. The composition had previously been known through a famous variant in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (fig. 1), known to have entered the French royal collection before January 1652 and whose authorship has never been doubted.4
The Louvre picture has always been ascribed to an early phase in the artist's career, that is to circa 1605-6, whilst the London picture dates from
considerably later. At the time of the Sotheby's 1985 sale Stephen Pepper suggested a date of circa 1618-20 but, following the painting's restoration and loan to the National Gallery in London, Michael Helston plausibly revised this dating to the end of the 1620s; a date which has been accepted ever since.5
Pepper published his monograph on Guido Reni in 1984, the year preceding this painting's discovery, and in it he argued that all the evidence pointed to the existence of a second full-length David by Reni, painted a number of years after the Louvre variant. Considered lost until the appearance of this extraordinary painting, that picture's composition had previously been erroneously linked to that of a work in the Ringling Museum, Sarasota, and to another painting in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome.6
In the 1988 Italian edition of his monograph, Pepper set the record straight, publishing this painting as Reni's second David and elaborating on its documented early provenance.
A native of Bologna, Reni spent the first decade or so of the 17th century in Rome and it was during this time that he painted the Louvre David. Though not as 'Caravaggesque' as his Crucifixion of Saint Peter painted for Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini at around the same time,7
the Louvre David does combine elements of Caravaggio - the marked use of chiaroscuro in particular - which were to characterise what Malvasia termed Reni's 'prima maniera' (or 'first style') of painting. By the time Reni painted his second variant in the late 1620s, he was back in Emilia Romagna and had firmly established himself as the leading artist in Bologna (Annibale Carracci having died in 1609 and Ludovico a decade later). Reni's style was to change considerably in the 1630s - his brushwork became looser, his colour palette more subdued and tending towards a silver-grey tonality - and the David seems to have been painted at a pivotal moment in the artist's stylistic development. This is perhaps the chief reason behind Reni wanting to reproduce so faithfully a composition he had tackled almost twenty years earlier. He clearly felt it necessary to refine his earlier variant and, as Elizabeth Cropper observed in her review of the 1986-7 The Age of Correggio and the Carracci exhibition, thismoment marks 'Guido's own inward-looking refinement of all that he had learned in his long career as a painter, a refinement that is already dramatically illustrated in the self-critical second version of David with the head of Goliath.'8
The overall composition in the Louvre and London Davids is essentially the same and its iconography unchanged: the elegant figure of David leans on a classical column, whilst the decapitated head of Goliath sits on the other side of him, on a pedestal of rough stone.9
The artist has introduced subtle differences in the design, however, essentially 'improving' on the earlier image: the angle of David's head (shifted slightly resulting in a greater foreshortening than in the Louvre variant); the turn and size of Goliath's head (significantly reduced here); the length of the pelt (shorter and more 'contained'); and the position of the sling (shifted to the left, so the string drops beside - and not in front of - David's thigh). By turning David's head a fraction to the right and slightly back, and bringing his right hand up, his right elbow sits much more comfortably and convincingly on the column. Through these subtle adapations Reni has obtained a significantly different result: his second David stands firmly planted on the ground, his pose denoting weary contemplation after the fight, rather than a languid effeminacy.
The most significant difference between the two Davids is not in their design, but in their execution and technique.
When the London painting was offered for sale in 1985 it was covered in a thick layer of dirt and discoloured varnish so its broad and assured brushwork - particularly the brilliant feathery touch of the flesh tones - was not entirely apparent. It was only post-cleaning that the marked difference between the two versions' palettes became evident: the starkly-lit figure of David in the Louvre picture is solidly painted, his flesh tones pale, his lips pink and a rosy blush is apparent on his cheek. The London David, however, is more intensely expressive and this is largely achieved through the underlying tones of the painting, particularly in the flesh areas. David's red hat with its white and yellow feathers does not stand out as emphatically as it does in the Louvre variant; the blue of the cloth draped over the column is muted and closer to a dusty grey; a colour that is far more in tune with the overall subdued tonality of the painting.
Helston considered the London variant to be 'far more confident and free; the draughtsmanship [is] more confident, especially in the naked torso, and the result altogether less laboured than in the Louvre painting'.10
The style of the London David sits quite happily with other works that are datable to the mid- to late 1620s. An interesting comparison may be made with Reni's Joseph and Potiphar's Wife at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, generally dated to circa 1625-26.11
The colour range in both pictures is very similar; in particular the touches of red and mustard-yellow in what is an otherwise rather subdued palette, and David's blue-grey drapery certainly evokes the curtain against which Potiphar's wife sits, its gold fringes highlighted in a way not dissimilar to the gilded hilt of David's sword. Furthermore the physiognomical type used for Joseph is very close to that of David, as if inspired by the same model, and the tilt of Potiphar's wife's head is strikingly similar to that of David.
"... and amongst other things I found a David, newly done by Guido Reni ... done on the model of the first; but according to him, rather more beautiful" (Cardinal Bernardino Spada, in a letter to the Abate di San Luca, July 1631)
The earliest reference to the London David is in a letter from Cardinal Bernardino Spada, legate in Bologna from 1627 to 1631, to the Abate di San Luca, the Queen Maria de' Medici's agent in Italy, dated July 1631. In it Spada mentions a painting of David with the Head of Goliath which Reni himself considers superior to his earlier variant: "... e tra l'altro havevo trovato un David, fatto nuovamente da Guido Reni, e venduto 200 ducatoni su l'andar del p.mo; ma secondo ch'ei dice, assai più bello".12
Not only is it extraordinary that this contemporary evidence of a second version of the composition has survived but, perhaps of even greater significance, is the eye-witness account of Reni's own views about the two pictures; notably that he considered the present variant to be rather more beautiful than the first ("assai più bello"). The painting was never secured for Maria de' Medici's collection for she was forced to leave France amid political upheaval at around the same time as Spada's letter.
Two years later the painting is mentioned again in a letter, dated 20th January 1633, from Cornelio Malvasia to Francesco I d'Este, Duke of Modena (fig. 2), stating that the painting of David is still for sale but at a high price of 300 ducats (indicating that the painting had gone up in value by 100 ducats, a third of its asking price, in the year and a half between Spada and Malvasia's respective letters): "È anco in vendita un altro quadro nel quale vi è un Davide con la testa del Gigante ucciso d'assai maggior grandezza del altro, ma questo pare a me che non habbi paragone inbellezza et hora il S.r Card.le legato ne fa cavar copia. Questo quadro merita di venire nella galleria di V.A. se bene è ancor lui caro assai, che stimo non lo lascij il Padrone per meno di trecento ducatoni d'argento...".13
Acting as the Duke's agent, Malvasia managed to negotiate the purchase of the painting on his behalf for 275 ducatoni and it entered the Duke's collection - later the Galleria Estense - towards the end of January 1633. Furthermore, we glean from Malvasia's letter that a copy of the painting had just been commissioned by the Cardinal Legate; almost certainly Bernardino Spada, whom we know had seen Reni's painting two years earlier. Spada was a well-known admirer of Reni's works but his finances did not allow him to purchase originals by the artist, so he satisfied himself with mere copies of his favourite painter's works.
It is not known exactly when the painting left Modena and entered the collection of Prince Eugène, Duke of Savoy (fig. 3), but this probably took place towards the end of the 17th century when many works of art travelled back and forth between Modena and Vienna.14
When compiling his notes for the Abecedario in circa 1704 Pierre-Jean Mariette noted that Reni's painting of David formerly in Bologna was now in Vienna, in the collection of Prince Eugène of Savoy: "Le jeune David debout ayant le bras gauche appuyé sur un fust de Colonne et soutenant de l'autre la teste de Goliath sur un piedestral gravé au burin par J. Piccino d'après le tableau qui estoit resté à Bologne, le Guide en ayant peint deux, celui-ci est presentempt à Vienne chez le Prince Eugene de Savoye".15
Indeed we know the painting hung in Prince Eugène's palace in the Upper Belvedere in Vienna since it was engraved there by Salamon Kleiner (1700-1761), as hanging high up in the main salon (the Bildersaal), in circa 1730. A 1737 catalogue of Prince Eugène's collection describes a work of the same description and very similar dimensions: "Davide colla testa di Golia in mano, di Guido Reni. A. 7'; L. 4'6"...".16
The painting was amongst those transferred to the Palazzo Reale, Turin, when Carlo Emanuele III (1701-1773), Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia, purchased Eugène's collection after his death.
In an annotation to the 1737 catalogue of Prince Eugène's collection, Alessandro Baudi di Vesme, director of the Galleria Sabauda from 1888 until 1923, wrote that Reni's David was requisitioned for the French nation by General Dupont.17
The David is not listed, however, among the 18 pictures by Guido Reni that were officially transferred in 1799 and it is therefore reasonable to assume that the painting was exported earlier. This would have to have taken place before 1783 if the painting is to be identified with a picture of similar description and matching dimensions in the Dujarry sale (lot 4): "Guido Reni, David tenant la tête de Goliath. Il est vêtu d'une peau de tigre, & est coëffé d'un chapeau avec des plumes. Hauteur 6 pieds 9 pouces, largeur 4 pieds 8 pouces. T."18
Whenever the painting did make its way from Turin to France - a hypothesis that does seem likely - the decision to sell it must surely have stemmed from the fact that an earlier almost identical version already existed in the French royal collections. The picture probably migrated to Britain at some point towards the end of the 18th or early 19th century and a number of paintings matching its description (possibly all describing the same picture) appear in sales held between 1796 and 1806 (see footnote 4 above). It is not known where the father of the penultimate owner purchased the painting in the early 20th century but it is likely to have been in the British Isles.
The evident success of the David's composition is attested to by the numerous 17th-century copies that survive.
Pepper lists no fewer than fifteen in his 1988 monograph, all of which are closer to the Louvre painting's dimensions than to the London variant.19
The copies that are most faithful to the Louvre painting are the anonymous one in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, and the one attributed to Pier Francesco Gavazzi in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna.20
A variant that appears to amalgamate elements of both the Louvre and London versions, formerly in the Liechtenstein collection in Vienna, is published by Pepper as a collaborative work by Reni and his pupil, Francesco Gessi.21
That painting, probably the best among the various copies that have come to light, is much closer in style to the Louvre variant and retains the latter's bright colourful palette. It is interesting to note, as Pepper did in his 1992 article, that despite the London David being the prototype that would have been most accessible to Italian artists, having been in the Duke of Modena's collection from 1633, it seems to have been copied officially only once (for Bernardino Spada, as recorded in Cornelio Malvasia's letter). It is far from surprising to find such a large number of copies after this composition given that this is, in John Somerville's words, 'one of the most powerful and arresting images in Italian baroque painting'.22
1. These are listed in M.-L. Blumer, "Catalogue des Peintures Transportées d'Italie en France de 1796 à 1814", in Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, vol. II, 1936, pp. 297-300.
2. 'T' stands for 'toile' (canvas) and the dimensions are equivalent to approximately 215 by 150 cm.. See also S. Loire, under Literature, p. 29, under no I.30.
3. The picture may be identifiable with the painting offered by Michael Bryan (1757-1821) at Bryan's Gallery, 15 January 1796, lot 98 ("Guido - David, with the Head of Goliah") and again on 27 April 1796, lot 98 ("Guido - David, with the Head of Goliah - very fine"). Two years later a picture of the same description was offered in Mr Bryan's sale, London, Peter Coxe, Burrell & Foster, 17 May 1798, lot 23 ("Guido.-David with the Head of Goliah, very fine"); and another (or the same again?) in Mr. Bryan's sale, London, Coxe, Burrell & Foster, 9 May 1804, lot 10 ("Guido - David with the Head of Goliah"), unsold(?) for £5-15-6. A work of this subject by Reni, also described as 'very fine' and identified by the Getty Provenance Index Research Project as being the same as that offered in 1798, 1804 and by Sotheby's in 1985 (see provenance), was offered by Bernard Pinney, London, Christie's, 7 March 1806, lot 93 ("Guido - David with the Head of Goliah, very fine"), unsold for £15.15, and then again by Pinney, London, Greenwood, 16 April 1806, lot 60 ("Guido - David with the Head of Goliah"). Since Michael Bryan officially retired in 1804 it seems reasonable that he would have passed the Reni first to Coxe and later to Pinney to sell on his behalf: indeed, in the introduction to Coxe's 1804 sale catalogue it states that "The Object of this Sale to Mr. Bryan, Who is already engaged in a Mercantile Establishment in the City, is for the finally closing of all his Transactions under his late Pursuit."
4. 237 by 137 cm.; inv. 519. The Louvre painting was in the collection of Charles I de Créquy (1578-1638) at the time of his death, after which it appears to have passed through the hands of the dealer Vignon to Roger du Plessis, Duc de Liancourt, by whom it was probably sold after his wife's death in 1642. By January 1652 the Louvre David was hanging in the Palais du Luxembourg, over the chimneypiece in the Duc d'Orléans' chamber, where it remained into the 18th century. For a more detailed provenance of the Louvre painting see J.-C. Boyer & I. Volf, "Rome à Paris: les tableaux du Mraéchal de Créquy (1638)", in Revue de l'Art, vol. LXXIX, 1988, p. 32 ff..
5. See Helston, under Literature, p. 210, who also noted that apart from a tear near the top edge of the canvas the painting was in very good condition.
6. For the Ringling Museum picture (228 by 174 cm.) see Pepper, under Literature, 1984, fig. 24. In 1992 Pepper attributed the Sarasota painting to Reni's pupil, Francesco Gessi. The Corsini painting, inv. no. 1375, was on view at the Accademia dei Lincei, Palazzo Corsini, at the time of Pepper's monograph. The bust-length David in Vienna was also put forward as a possible model for the composition of the second 'lost' full-length original (Pepper, op. cit., cat.no. 67, reproduced).
7. 305 by 175 cm.; Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome, inv. no. 260, datable to circa 1604-5; see D.S. Pepper, under Literature, 1988, pp. 220-221, cat. no. 17, reproduced plate 17.
8. See Cropper, under Literature.
9. Valli, under Literature, notes the underlying symbolism of the painting commenting that the column and pedestal 'are, in form and material also symbolically consonant with the moral principles expressed'.
10. Helston, op. cit..
11. See the 1988-89 exhibition catalogue, Guido Reni 1575-1642, pp. 238-9, cat. no. 34, reproduced in colour.
12. "... and amongst other things I found a David, newly done by Guido Reni, for sale at 200 ducats, done on the model of the first; but according to him, rather more beautiful": cited in M.-T. Dirani, under Literature.
13. "... There is also another painting for sale, showing a David with the severed Giant's head, which is rather larger than the other [painting], but it seems to me that the beauty of this one is incomparable and the Cardinal legate is having a copy made of it. This painting deserves to enter your gallery even though it is quite expensive, since I think [Reni] will not let it go for less than 300 silver ducats": cited by Venturi, under Literature.
14. Venturi discusses the traffic of works of art between the two cities, often via Venice, in the course of the 17th century (see Literature, p. 246 ff.). Prince Eugène also owned another painting by Reni which was formerly in thecollection of the Duke of Modena: a "Cristo puttino che dorme, figura intiera" is mentioned in Rinaldo Ariosti's letter to the Duke of Modena, dated 21 January 1627, and a picture of the same subject and similar dimensions is recorded in Eugène of Savoy's collection (see Pepper, under Literature, 1983, p. 44, no. 166).
15. See Mariette, under Literature.
16. Catalogue des Tableaux trouvés dans l'hoirie de S.A.S. le grand Prince Eugène de Savoye. Ceux qui voudrons en acheter en gros ou en detail pourront s'adresser au S. Vinzelli Banquier à Vienne en Autriche, 1737. Baudi di Vesme was working from an Italian translation of J. von Retzen's 1783 transcription in German (Meusel's Miscellaneen artistichen Inhalts, Erfurt 1783): see C. Spantigati, under Literature, Turin 1982. Dimensions, given in Austrian piedi, are equivalent to approximately 218 by 143 cm. (31.6 cm. = approximately 1 piede austriaco).
17. This must be the French general of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Pierre-Antoine, comte Dupont de l'Étang (1765-1840).
18. Dujarry sale, Paris, Chariot, 4 July 1783, lot 4. 'T' is for 'toile' (canvas) and the dimensions are equivalent to approximately 215 by 150 cm..
19. See Pepper, op. cit., 1988, p. 222, under cat. no. 19, and p. 337, under cat. no. 30.
20. See Pepper, under Literature, 1992, figs. 9 and 10.
21. Pepper, ibid., reproduced in colour fig. 3.
22. See Somerville, under Literature.
Sotheby's. Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale. Londres | 04 juil. 2012 www.sothebys.com
Guido Reni, David with the head of Goliath, circa 1605-06 © Musée du Louvre, Paris